He is one of the biggest Bollywood stars and it's not often that he comes to down to Chennai. Shah Rukh Khan arrived in style and the crowds went into a frenzy screaming, whistling and clapping as soon as he walked into the theatre. And I was really excited and quite nervous about meeting him during his Ra One promotions.
I had a fifteen-minute meeting with him and Shah Rukh was truly King Khan. He was charming, polite, attentive and spoke to me like he and I knew each other for years! Incidentally, it happened to be my birthday and as soon as he knew this, he hugged me warmly and kissed me on my forehead. "God bless," he said, wishing me. In fact, he kept talking to me till his team gently reminded him that he had to meet other people. To date, I think that was the best meeting that I have had with any star in India.
Shah Rukh has a fan following the world over and it's really not surprising, as I have experienced. Like millions of others, I have watched all his films and even some episodes of his TV show Fauji. But meeting him in real gives you a different perspective of the star – you realise he's human and affected by everyday things just like you and me. He loves to read, watch movies and hardly sleeps. And yes, he gets stopped by the immigration in the US like many others. What makes him all the more endearing is that he doesn't react with anger to all this but with a sense of humour.
Speaking at Yale in 2012, SRK gave a glimpse into his journey stating: "Journeys can be defined by age and time or even by destinations, as most often they are. But I feel it is hard for me to tell the story of my life in those terms because the concept of time has always eluded me. The day my father died seemed longer than my entire childhood. The day I felt my first success seemed fleeting, hour-long, not long enough perhaps. I wondered where it went."
The Bollywood star has had his share of successes and failures, and happiness and tragedy. He was born to a middle-class family in Delhi and lost his dad in 1981 and his mom in 1991. While his father passed away of cancer, his mother had diabetes and ended up dying of sepsis. She is said to have died in his arms and SRK believes that she continues to watch over him even today. He is very emotionally connected to his family and he looks after his sister who lives with him now.
His Film Career
Shah Rukh moved from Delhi to Mumbai after his mother's death in 1991, with a firm decision to try his hand at films. Though Hema Malini made his first film offer, it was in Deewana in 1992 that we first saw SRK on screen.
The Delhiite came into cinema in the 90s when Amitabh Bachchan was no longer the hot star in B-Town. By 1992, Big B went into a semi-retirement and new younger heroes had come onto the scene. Aamir Khan hit stardom with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak in 1988, while Salman Khan made a big splash in 1989 with Maine Pyar Kiya. However, unlike these two Khans, SRK came with no filmy background or godfather. He didn't have a producer father nor someone who would make a film for him based on his pedigree. SRK was just another newcomer like the hundreds of others who flock to Mumbai each year hoping to strike it big in Bollywood. Once Deewana became a hit, there was been no looking back since for the actor who has bagged eight Filmfare Awards so far.
In his career, SRK started off in anti-hero roles before he started wooing women on the big screen. From Darr and Baazigar, he moved to films like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Yes Boss, Pardes, Dil To Pagal Hai and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. In fact, SRK became one of the filmstars who was a huge draw for the NRI audience. And he made sure he worked across various genres, including comedies and family dramas.
International recognition also found its way to him and he has been awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2007) and the Légion d'honneur (2014) by France. In 2008, Malaysia conferred the title of Datuk on him and he was constantly inundated with lavish gifts from people which ranged from homes to more in his Bollywood journey.
It's not about the cars or houses...it never was... those are peripherals. They never come about because of your talent or your creative outpourings... they come out of a business that people around you do. Those people are in the business of barter -- not you. Yours is the business of giving and learning. Your work of art may never be complete in your lifetime. Your fulfilment will always lie in your creative expression not in its products.
And his creativity is exactly what he has tried to fulfil. King Khan moved beyond the realm of films expanding into businesses like his Red Chillies Entertainment and buying the Kolkata IPL team. He went back to TV hosting the Hindi version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain? Meanwhile, he became one of the biggest attractions in stage shows and he made sure he took part in plenty of concert tours where he could engage with his fans and audience directly. While his co-stars and friends spoke of his generosity off screen, there were also controversies that marred his career. His ban by the Mumbai Cricket Association from Wankhede Stadium for five years was much talked-about for which he later apologised. But the audience forgave him quickly. King Khan could do no wrong as he was their much-loved star.
A Social Star
Today, he speaks to his fans directly on social media. With nearly 22 million followers on Twitter, King Khan tries to entertain, engage and uplift all those who follow him. He makes no bones about how much he loves his kids or what his family means to him. He is quick to voice his opinion on issues that matter to society and he gives back as much love as he gets online. What more could a fan ask for?
Despite his string of hits and mind-boggling box office numbers, many feel that the multi-faceted King Khan is yet to deliver his best performance. He has never aspired to go to Hollywood but made sure he has cemented his place in Bollywood. So what is next for him? Considering his recent choice of films, it looks like SRK is going to experiment with genres and roles. He will still be seen in loud films like Happy New Year, but he will make sure that he does a Chak De like film as well. His constant need for creativity drives him to push his limits and test new waters.
As for what SRK would like to achieve in life or when his dreams would be fulfilled, he is always yearning to entertain the audience as much as he can for however long he can. "As for my destination, I don't think I ever knew one. I walk, I run, in the direction of my dreams. Things change along the way, people change, I change, the world changes, even my dreams change. I don't have a place to arrive, I just keep doing what I know how to do the best that I can do it," he once said. And as he turns 50, King Khan is still firmly on the path to doing what he does best – making us laugh and smile with him on screen and off screen. Here's wishing him a wonderful birthday!